I haven’t really done a wow for ages but today has wow all over it.
From driving along the motorway just past daybreak with ground fog and pseudo frost keeping the grass white. The Waimak was running swift and strong, not clear but murky hinting the eaters have come from snow melt. The sky was the haziest of pale blue promising a stunning early summer day, such a contrast frm yesterday which definitely came under the heading of late winter.
I arrived at Waiau in time to visit the toilets and grab my shoes and some sachets of gu before joining a group of similarly attired individuals. We boarded the school bus. I met Vanessa. A new friend. Later on in the day someone said we must have been friends for ages. Nope, met this morning on the bus!
And off along the course to Mt Lyford. Registration. Toilet. Warm up. Toilet. Briefing. Should have gone to the toilet again.
This is the third year I have run this race. I love it. But its popularity is getting out. The number of entrants has doubled in those years. Competition looked fierce.
Famous last words – it’s just a training run. And that was my plan. Until someone said go and I realised my body was in race mode.
My preferred start position is just ahead of the middle of the group. This means I start slow, warm up and then pass people. This worked fine today. I could see I was sitting about 10th woman after about 800m, nope make that sixth as I powered past a couple.
In fact I soon found myself sitting in about fourth or fifth position. There was a person ahead who I thought had had a pony tail but now I couldn’t see it. Wearing grey. Possible a lean man. Style was awkward.
It was great running. The scenery is stunning along the inland Kaikoura road. I could smell the bush. The sun was shining. The wind was breezy in parts and a little in my face. Everything seemed great. I felt strong.
Another runner I meet regularly at events had her husband as chief cheerleader. He did a wonderful job of cheering me too. The road winds its way along a valley and up and down a few good sized hills. I am not bragging when I say hills are my secret weapon. I know I am fast and strong on hills. Psychologically too it gives me an advantage to pass people on a long steep hill. I did that three times today!
A man on a bike calls out to me, “Good on you mate, you’re doing fine.” What a boost. Only in NZ.
I was now sitting in first place with grey guy sitting a steady 100m ahead of me. Mark (the cheerleader) yells out, “you’re gaining on her”. Damn. He is a she. Do I want to be bridesmaid or do I want to catch her?
We come into the area where the 10k runners start. I start to question whether second is good enough. And I realise we are climbing another hill. I count the seconds between us as we pass things – 24, 23, 17, 13.
We are almost at the top and I am right on her tail. I recognised her from other events. But I didn’t know her name or even her age group – around 50 it is hard to tell as we age differently. I know people seem surprised that I am in the upper age group. So my decisions were to go past her and hold the lead for 10k of mostly flattish but still hard or sit on her arse and make her work and trust a sprint finish.
I went past her. Now I had to hold her off.
I just kept pushing. I probably glanced at my watch for the time rather than distance at this stage and realised that on these slightly downhill flat bits I was running 5k pace. Bloody hell. I also realised that I could post a good time if I managed to keep it up.
It was not easy. I worked really hard mentally and physically along here. I did actually get passed twice – once by a male half marathoner (youngish) and about 300m from the end by the lead 10k.
I was just trying to keep my feet ticking over as fast as I could. 5k 4k 3k 2k. Almost there.
I checked my watch as I was about the official distance for a half marathon – 1:28:36. Wow!! My previous PB (on a flat course) was 1:32:35. I was stoked. Plus I could see the finish area.
Thank God. Official time was 1:32 flat. Distance was 22:22km. First woman overall. Grey girl had visibly slowed and later told me she didn’t have it in the second half, eventually finishing three minutes behind me.
I felt great. I love the course. I love that because I used to work in the area people know me and they are so supportive and friendly. I love the fact that I bought a couple of farm-made sausages from the volunteer fire fighters for my lunch. Vanessa (who finished in a creditable time for her third and toughest half marathon yet) and I ate our lunch on the village green. We bought cupcakes from some cute five year olds who were raising funds to send school supplies to the Philippines. We ate yummy homemade slice made by someone’s granny and drank great coffee. I love that we could gate crash a table outside the pub with three old codgers and have a wonderful hour of zany conversation before prizegiving.
I won a voucher but my spot prize was amazing – only in farm country would a bag of chicken pellets be offered as a spot prize. And this townie was first to sprint up to claim it. My chooks will be pleased.
So wow. My first ever overall win. An awesome day.
Only problem is I have to get up early and run a technical (but not competitive) 38k tomorrow.